(From an audio tape recording, 10:40am)
I have just left our Saviour’s at Knoxfield where I had first communions and I am rushing down to St Peter’s at Frankston for my last service there. I’ve got confirmations there this morning.
Well, I must say that I got through that service without a great deal of emotion until during the last hymn. Maddy came running up to me at the chair and, as I picked her up, I turned to see Cathy with Mia, and I saw that Cathy was crying, and well, that did it for me too. I think it was particularly sad for her. It was a very different path to that which we thought we were taking when we were married four years ago.
Pastor D.B. came with his wife - that was very kind of him. And of course a lot of guests for the first communion as well, but also interestingly, a woman who told me she is a practicing Roman Catholic. She had come to communion for a blessing (she didn’t take communion, as a good Catholic should not have, of course) and then at the door she said quietly to me “You’ve made the right choice”. Well, I’m glad. I believe I have. That’s what I need now, some positive reinforcement from my Catholic brothers and sisters, to help me on the next leg of the journey.
A grandfather of one of the first-communicant's , from Cathy's parish, said at the door that he had enjoyed the sermon and that if I ever become a preacher in the Catholic Church that they will get a “good man”. One of the elders said she wanted a copy of the sermon.
There’s not a lot else to say at the moment. I am just running late for my last service. It is a unique feeling at this moment and it just has to sink in a little bit.
You know, eight and half years ago, or a period spaning ten years, almost a decade, this ministry has gone on, and now it’s the end, and I took off for the last time the stoles that my first wife made for me when I was ordained. Hung 'em up. Maybe at some stage I will have a chance to wear them again. I have no idea. If I ever do, it will be absolutely just by the grace of God. Just entirely by the grace of God. Any way, enough for now. "Gotta run", as they say.
I should just say that the service was packed, but that's probably got more to do with the fact that there were a lot of visitors there for first communions and everything else. But it certainly was good to go out on a full service.
[later that same morning on the way back from Frankston.]
Well there it is, that's that, I've just completed the Eucharist at St Peter's, now I'm on my way home. I stopped to have coffee with the Tiptons, just shortly. There were a lot of people there again for the confirmations, far more visitors than members. It made it hard again shaking hands at the door. I was crying my eyes out after having said goodbye to a group of parishioners, and then I would have to be smiles and welcomes for the visitors who was next in line.
How did I feel? I don't know. I wasn't really conscious of the fact that I was doing this for the last time. I wasn't really conscious of that while I was at the altar or in the pulpit. I think was conscious of it when I was doing the consecration, and realising that I would never again be saying those words over the bread and wine.
The question that was uppermost in my mind at the moment - the ultimate question is: Is this the last time that I will be doing this? Will I never return to ministry? I think I can confidently say at this time that I will never return to ministry in the Lutheran Church. With caution. I mean, "never say never" people say, but I would have to change a lot I think for that to be possible, because I know the Lutheran Church (the Lutheran Church of Australia, at least) will never change to the point that I can really be satisfied with it from the point of view of the theological questions I have been asking of Lutheranism up till now. A leopard can't change its spots, and this one isn't about to. And I think that is the point that I am simply feeling right now.
Now, I can change my thoughts, my ideas, my beliefs. That has happened before, and yet even this, I mean my real conversion, as I keep on saying to people, took place in '86 and '87, there back when we were messing about with "the ecumenical society" at the Seminary. Through people like Fr John Fleming and attendance at Good Shepherd church. That converted me to the catholic faith there and then, and it simply was a matter of some remaining questions. Now that didn't change, but I was presented with a new thing, and that new thing I instantly recognised as true.
I don't think that I could now, knowing the lie of the land, find myself convinced otherwise. It would take a new thing, something completely new. Otherwise it has just been a long, long working out of this whole business of whether or not I can be both Catholic and Lutheran at the same time. And I think the answer to that is as plain as anything to anybody.
How do I feel? I don't feel frightened. I feel fairly confident about the coming future. Cathy keeps on saying that I keep on going on about the financial challenges - I know that I am not going to have the income that I currently do have, that we're going to be a little worse off than we are now, not by much, but by some. And Cathy says, Why do you keep on saying that? You're going to be doing what you enjoy."
But I guess that as I compare, my quality of living has been important. But I'm looking forward to the challenge of the school job, I'm looking forward to the challenge of the job at Ringwood. I'm not looking forward to packing up and finalising everything here. Because I would really like a fortnight's holiday now, but I'm not going to get it. I'm going to have a lot of things that still need to be done to undo, to completely untie all the knots, or tie up all the knots or all the loose ends, in the parishes before Easter, and after Easter, I'm going to be fairly focused on moving into my new positions. So I don't think I'm going to have much time to reflect on all this.
I'm going home now. Cathy is at her parent's place with the kids for lunch. There is an Organ and Choral concert at Our Saviour's at 2:30 which is in just an hour's time. I wasn't going to go, but I am finding myself thinking now that I will. That maybe just to sit and listen some music might be exactly what my soul needs at this point in time. Father Greg is coming around tonight at about 8:30pm. We've got the Passion play thingy at St Pauls at 6:30 which we will all go to and we'll come home and Greg will be there to meet us and I will have a chat with him.
Yeah, anyway, that's it for the moment. We'll see how and where things go to from here.
(From an audio tape recording, 10:40am)